Jason Smith

Wizards Notes: Brown, Mahinmi, Meeks, Go-Go

Rookie swingman Troy Brown has multiple skills and can handle multiple positions, but he’ll have to battle for playing time at each one, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The 15th player selected in this year’s draft, Brown excels at handling the ball, passing, rebounding and playing defense. The Wizards were happy with his performance in the Las Vegas Summer League, where he spent time at point guard as well as his more natural positions of shooting guard and small forward.

However, the 19-year-old won’t have an easy path toward getting minutes at any of those spots. All-stars John Wall and Bradley Beal are entrenched as the starting backcourt, and Austin Rivers was picked up in an offseason trade to provide depth. Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre will see most of the playing time at small forward, along with free agent addition Jeff Green.

Hughes suggests that Washington may see Brown as a long-term prospect and could use him at both the G League and NBA levels this season.

There’s more out of Washington:

  • The Wizards got to see more of backup center Ian Mahinmi last season, but not enough to justify his sizable contract, Hughes states in a separate piece. Injuries forced Mahinmi to miss 51 games in his first season after signing a four-year, $64MM deal, but he rebounded to play 77 games last year. He will remain the backup center after Washington signed Dwight Howard to replace Marcin Gortat, who was traded to the Clippers. Howard averages more minutes per game, which will limit Mahinmi’s role, as will the use of smaller lineups that could feature Markieff Morris or Green at center.
  • Jodie Meeks and Jason Smith will both be trying to improve after disappointing seasons, Hughes adds in another story. Meeks appeared in 77 games last year after two injury-filled seasons, but his numbers were down sharply in every category from his best years. He will start this season by serving the remaining 19 games of a 25-game suspension for a violation of the league’s drug program. Smith was healthy last year, but was only used in 33 games, and the addition of Green will continue to block his playing time. Both players will be free agents next summer.
  • Candace Buckner of The Washington Post chronicles today’s tryouts for the Capital City Go-Go, Washington’s new G League affiliate. Ninety-three players showed up in hopes of winning one or two invitations to the new team’s training camp.

Wizards’ Jason Smith Opts In For Next Season

JUNE 30th, 8:04am: Smith has officially opted in, according to the RealGM transactions log.

MAY 16th, 4:20pm: Wizards center/power forward Jason Smith has exercised his $5.45MM option for next season, relays Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

The 32-year-old had a player option as part of a three-year, $16MM contract he signed as a free agent in 2016. He appeared in just 33 games this season, averaging 3.4 points and 1.6 rebounds in 8.6 minutes per night.

Smith’s decision pushes the Wizards above the $119MM mark in guaranteed salary for next season, dangerously close to the projected $123MM luxury tax. Washington is still waiting on a decision from Jodie Meeks, who can opt out of a $3,454,500 salary.

Draft Rumors: Nuggets, Trades, Cavs, Wizards

The Kings (No. 2), Hawks (No. 3), and Grizzlies (No. 4) all consider to explore the possibility of trading down in the draft, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on Monday night on the network’s Mock Draft Special (Twitter link via Sagar Trika). According to Wojnarowski, the Clippers are one team looking to move up and so are the Nuggets, who would love to get into the top five or six (Twitter link via Trika).

Although we hear whispers about possible trades in the lottery every year, Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) gets the sense that this year could be a little different. According to Mannix, there’s a “growing sense” among many team executives that there could be some major deals completed early in the draft.

Here are several more draft-related rumors worth relaying, with 2018’s big night just two days away:

  • Wojnarowski passed along a few more draft tidbits during ESPN’s Mock Draft Special, per Trika (all Twitter links). According to Woj, the Magic are high on both Trae Young and Collin Sexton, there’s strong mutual interest between Mikal Bridges and the Sixers, and the Warriors will be looking to buy a second-round pick in the 30s.
  • Multiple sources, including NBA execs, agents, and scouts, believe that the Cavaliers will select Michael Porter Jr. if he’s on the board at No. 8, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. However, the odds of Porter still being available at that point seem to be dwindling.
  • The Wizards are letting teams know that they’re open to trading down from No. 15 if a team is willing to take on one of Washington’s expiring contracts, a league source tells Ben Standig of The Sports Capitol. Marcin Gortat ($13.57MM) and Jason Smith ($5.45MM) look like a couple of the club’s prime trade candidates.
  • Jake Fischer and Jeremy Woo of SI.com spoke to 10 anonymous scouts around the NBA to get their thoughts on Luka Doncic, Trae Young, the Cavaliers‘ pick, and several more draft-related topics.

John Wall Displeased With Wizards’ Roster?

Fresh off a loss to the Raptors in Game 6 of the First Round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, Wizards’ point guard John Wall spoke at length on Saturday about changes he’d like to see to the Wizards’ roster next season, writes Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. When asked what type of players should be added to the roster, Wall pulled no punches, yet was quick to assure that his postseason evaluation was not directed at any particular teammates.

“There’s a lot that we can use. I really don’t have to say certain positions. There are certain things that people who have been around the team understand what we could use to help our team. It’s not throwing shade to anybody that is on our team because everyone that is on our roster gave everything they have to make it work and fit with the team, but at the same time, when it’s not working and then you try and you try and you try and it keeps failing over and over, then you have to make certain adjustments and certain changes.”

Wall further elaborated, telling reporters he is in support of the Wizards bringing in an “athletic big”, which could of course be interpreted as a slight at Marcin Gortat, who clashed with Wall when Wall was injured earlier this season, and little-used big man Ian Mahinmi who, in hindsight, was grossly overpaid in the spend-happy summer of 2016. Combined, Gortat and Mahinmi will make just north of $29.5MM next season.

Unfortunately for the Wizards, adding worthwhile free agents this offseason, per Wall’s imploring, will be no easy task. Washington already has nearly $116MM tied up in guaranteed contracts for 2018/19, not counting player options for Jason Smith and Jodie Meeks. Should both players opt in, the Wizards payroll would reach $124.8MM – $1.8MM more than next year’s projected luxury tax threshold of $123MM and nearing the apron – before free agency even begins.

Given that the $124.8MM figure only includes 10 players, the Wizards best tool will likely be their taxpayer mid-level exception, which is projected to be about $3.3MM less than the non-taxpayer mid-level exception and limited to three seasons rather than four. Players looking to cash in on a MLE deal this offseason stand to make about an additional $19.2MM over the life of a non-taxpayer MLE contract, thereby lessening the Wizards’ chances of luring meaning free agents to the nation’s capital this summer. For his part, Wall thinks players should nevertheless entertain the idea of coming to Washington.

“I think those guys that are watching and seeing understand what they can add and what we might need to make our team better to finally get over the second round or get through the first round like we didn’t this year.”

2018 Free Agent Stock Watch: Washington Wizards

The Wizards made the bold decision to commit max money to three organization grown players long-term and will permanently have their hands full managing their finances as a result. In order to make the strategy work, they’ll need to be responsible with where they spend the rest of their budget.

While the club already projects to dip into the luxury tax this season and next (with over $29MM in guaranteed money tied up in Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi in 2018/19 alone), they’ll get a chance to practice financial restraint this summer with a handful of free agents that they can afford to part ways with if they feel the need to.

Tim Frazier, PG, 27 (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $4.1MM deal in 2016
One season removed from a fantastic stint as a spot starter in New Orleans in 2016/17, Frazier hasn’t had much of an impact since coming over in a draft day trade last June. The Wizards were in need of a reliable backup point guard when they targeted Frazier but seem to have grown comfortable with the idea of Tomas Satoransky handling backup point guard duties in John Wall‘s absence. For that reason, Frazier will probably have to choose between rounding out the club’s rotation as a third-string playmaker or look elsewhere.

Sheldon Mac, SG, 25 (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $1.8MM deal in 2016
A torn Achilles has rendered Mac unable to suit up in 2017/18. He’ll hit restricted free agency in the summer but don’t expect any suitors until he can prove that he’s healthy enough to battle for a rotation spot. That’ll likely have to happen in the G League.

Chris McCullough, PF, 23 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $3,8MM deal in 2015
The Wizards, to this point, have shown little interested in working McCullough into their rotation. The 23-year-old showed some flashes of promise during his rookie campaign with the Nets in 2015/16 but then again many fringe NBA players have looked half-decent in Brooklyn’s lineup the last few years. If all goes well, McCullough will find another squad to break training camp with next fall. It’s hard to say whether or not there will be much more beyond that.

Jodie Meeks, SG, 30 (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $6.7MM deal in 2017
After several years of struggling to stay on the court, Meeks has shown that he can contribute modestly off the bench. While his player option for 2018/19 comes in at a rather cheap $3.5MM for a player with his experience, don’t be surprised if the veteran elects to return. There may be a team out there willing to give the career .417 three-point shooter more than that on the open market but an argument can be made that Meeks could benefit more in the long run from simply focusing on staying healthy and relevant where he is, while worrying about free agency in 2019.

Mike Scott, PF, 29 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1.7MM deal in 2017
The Wizards got a key rotation piece for dirt cheap over the summer and the forward has done nothing but raise his stock over the course of the season. Expect teams to take an interest in the veteran role player with impressive efficiency numbers and the ability to put points on the board. Washington would likely be happy to retain him but will be limited in what they can offer him.

Jason Smith, C, 32 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $15.7MM deal in 2016
Smith hit free agency at the perfect time back in 2016. This summer, in contrast, teams won’t be so willing to cough up significant money for career reserves with forgettable portfolios. Smith’s stints with the Magic, Knicks and Pelicans hardly justified the contract he signed two summers ago but he’s done even less since arriving in Washington. For that reason, expect him to accept his $5.5MM player option.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Wizards Notes: Expectations, McCullough, Robinson

The moves made this offseason by the Celtics and Cavaliers – including a blockbuster trade with one another – has allowed those two clubs to dominate the conversation on Eastern Conference contenders as the 2017/18 season approaches. However, the Wizards feel as if they’re right there with the top two clubs in the East. In fact, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst writes, Bradley Beal and the Wizards think they’re the best team in the East, and believe they match up particularly well vs. the Cavs.

“We love the matchup against them and why not?” Beal said. “I said it and J.R. [Smith] didn’t like it too much, some of their other guys didn’t like it too much. But I felt that way. It’s not disrespect with them, I’m not saying we’d have won the series (if the Wizards, instead of the Celtics, had made the Eastern Conference Finals), but I feel like our competition level and matchups would’ve been better.”

As the Wizards head into a new season with increased expectations, let’s round up a few more notes out of D.C.

  • Third-year forward Chris McCullough, acquired from the Nets last season, is battling for minutes in the Wizards’ rotation, and head coach Scott Brooks has been impressed, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington details. “He’s a better shooter than I thought,” Brooks said of McCullough. “He hasn’t played much the last few years, but he’s having a good camp. I think that’s through the hard work that he’s put in. He came into camp in great shape. He’s showing us that he can play in the league. I don’t know where I can find him the minutes, but at least I know he can definitely play.”
  • With Markieff Morris at risk of being convicted on assault charges, which would result in an NBA suspension, the Wizards have been keeping a close eye on their power forwards during their first week back, writes Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Veteran center Jason Smith is among the players seeing extra time at the four, per Buckner.
  • Wizards rookie Devin Robinson, who is on a two-way contract with the team, was in a walking boot at training camp last week, and Brooks suggests that Robinson will be out “for a while” due to a foot injury, tweets Buckner. The G League season doesn’t tip off until November 3, so Robinson has a little extra time to get healthy.
  • As we noted yesterday, the Wizards are one of four NBA teams without a G League affiliate for this season, which will have an impact on Robinson, Michael Young, and anyone else Washington wants to assign to the G League.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Wizards, Jordan

The Hornets struggled to keep leads when their starters – particularly Kemba Walker and Cody Zeller – were on the bench last season. The question ahead of 2017/18 then, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer asks, is whether or not that will change this season.

Gone are all of Walker’s and Zeller’s backups, a veritable laundry list of players from Ramon Sessions, Brian Roberts and Briante Weber to Spencer Hawes, Roy Hibbert and Miles Plumlee. In their place are Michael Carter-Williams and Dwight Howard, both of whom were attained by the Hornets at relative bargains over the summer.

Of course the addition of Carter-Williams will provide size and defense to the Hornets’ second unit but the real draw is Howard, not because of what he’ll add off the bench but because of what his addition to the starting lineup entails.

As we’ve already written, head coach Steve Clifford has already committed to starting Howard when the season begins, that means Zeller himself will be able to work directly with the Hornets’ second unit to help do for them what he did for the starting five in 2016/17.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Wizards will have a number of players to replace Markieff Morris with when the season tips off. The forward is currently expected to miss six to eight weeks with a sports hernia. “We have versatility and we have depth. We can go in many different directions. We can go small. We can throw Kelly Oubre]in there. We can throw Jason Smith in there. Mike Scott we can put in there. There’s a lot of players that we can throw into the mix,” head coach Scott Brooks told Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic.
  • Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan will soon have a stake in another professional sports franchise. Jordan is part of Derek Jeter‘s group that has been approved to buy the Miami Marlins, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes.
  • Only time will tell how Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer and new general manager Travis Schlenk mesh over the next few years but the dynamic between the two could be worth watching as the organization’s priorities shift from winning ball games to developing for the future. Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that Budenholzer will embrace the rebuild, whether that’s his preference or not.

Wizards Notes: Horford, Mahinmi, Smith, BIG3

Boston’s Al Horford could have been in the visiting locker room as the Eastern Conference semifinals get under way this afternoon, writes J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic. Before signing a four-year, $113MM deal with the Celtics last summer, Horford narrowed his list to three finalists that also included the Wizards and Rockets. Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld and VP of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard flew to Atlanta to make a personalized pitch to Horford. Point guard John Wall also joined in the recruiting process.

“Me and him had a great conversation,” Wall recalled. “He told me it was down to [us], them and I think Houston. He made his final decision after that, you’ve got to move on. It would’ve been great to have him on our team, but he’s with the Celtics. They had a great season this year. He had a heck of a season and we’re competing against him now so all that texting, all we had is out the window.” 

There’s more today out of Washington:

  • The Wizards have announced that back-up center Ian Mahinmi won’t be available for today’s game (Twitter link). That isn’t suprising, Michael tweets, because Mahinmi hasn’t gone through a full practice since straining his left calf two weeks ago. He has ramped up his individual workouts over the past week, but isn’t ready for game action. Mahinmi played just 31 regular season games after signing a four-year, $64MM deal last offseason, as knee problems limited him to just five games before the All-Star break.
  • There’s better news about reserve big man Jason Smith, tweets Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Coach Scott Brooks said Smith will be ready for today’s game. He has been dealing with a left calf strain, but played 11 minutes in Friday’s closeout game against the Hawks.
  • Four former Wizards players are hoping to be part of the BIG3 league this summer, relays CSNMidAtlantic. Etan Thomas tweeted Saturday that he was at the league’s draft combine along with DeShawn Stevenson, Kwame Brown and Michael Ruffin. The new league, which features three-on-three competition among former NBA players, will hold its draft today in Las Vegas.

Eastern Notes: Pistons, Wizards, Henson, McRoberts

Pistons center Boban Marjanovic and rookie power forward Henry Ellenson will get a long look during the last four games of the season, Aaron McMann of MLive.com reports. Marjanovic, who signed a three-year, $21MM contract as a free agent last summer, has played sparingly behind Andre Drummond and Aron Baynes. Marjanovic could have a bigger role next season if Baynes opts out of the final year of his contract. Ellenson, the team’s first-round selection last June, has spent most of the season with the team’s D-League affiliate in Grand Rapids, Mich.  “We will still play our main guys, but we’ll get Henry and Boban in there every night,” coach Stan Van Gundy told the team’s beat reporters.

In other developments around the Eastern Conference:

  • Power forward Jason Smith has proven to be a bargain pickup for the Wizards, according to J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com. Smith, who played for the Magic last season, signed a three-year, $15MM deal as a free agent last summer. He’s averaging 5.6 PPG but is shooting 49.2% from 3-point range and 53.1% overall despite getting dropped from the rotation on occasion, Michael continues. His screening has also been a valuable asset, Michael adds.
  • Bucks big man John Henson will lose $250K in bonus incentives because of his current thumb injury, Bobby Marks of The Vertical tweets.  Henson needed to play in 60 games to collect the bonus. Henson signed a four-year extension in October 2015 that kicked in at the start of this season. The contract is worth between $44MM and $48MM, depending upon if Henson reaches certain incentives.
  • Heat forward Josh McRoberts participated in his first contact practice on Tuesday since he was sidelined in late December with a stress fracture in his left foot, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. Coach Erik Spoelstra is still uncertain if McRoberts will return this season, Jackson adds. McRoberts holds a $6MM option on his contract for next season.

Southeast Notes: Heat, Mahinmi, Smith

Pat Riley has to do more than just appease paying customers, writes Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel, the team president needs to steward the future of the Heat franchise. That means, despite the 13-game win streak that has suddenly put Miami within striking distance of the playoffs, the club would be wise to approach the February 23 trade deadline with caution.

This summer will be a pivotal one for the Heat, Winderman writes, citing things like Chris Bosh‘s contract situation and the fact that the club has already traded two of the club’s next four first-rounders as reasons why they ought to be smart about how they structure the team heading forward. The draft matters now more than ever, he adds, suggesting that hasty moves to load up on short-term assets this week would only hurt their 2017 draft position.

Winderman notes that the camaraderie in the Heat locker room is similar to that of the upstart 2004/05 Heat team anchored by a rookie Dwyane Wade, Lamar Odom and Caron Butler. That team started slow but rallied to become a playoff team. Tellingly, it wasn’t long after the turnaround when Riley opted to cash in his chips in the blockbuster deal that netted Shaquille O’Neal.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • It wasn’t long ago when Heat forwards Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson appeared to be reasonably untouchable, writes Ira Winderman in a separate piece for the Sun Sentinel, but Miami’s recent improvement may have altered that. Now that the club isn’t in position to land a Top 3 pick, Winderman says, the club might consider holding onto Goran Dragic more than anybody else.
  • After missing 50 games for the Wizards through the first four months of the season, Ian Mahinmi isn’t about to take time off during the All-Star Break, writes Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic. The big man inked to a four-year, $64MM deal over the summer has been on a minutes restriction and will look to get himself back into a rhythm in the second half.
  • The return of Ian Mahimi has eaten into backup center Jason Smith‘s minutes but the consummate professional made an impression while filling in for the injured big man. “What he’s done the last two or three months is what he’s done his entire career and he’s been terrific,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks tells Candace Buckner of the Washington Post. Smith has averaged close to 14 points and 9 rebounds per 36 minutes so far this season.
  • The Hornets complicated their cap situation when they acquired Miles Plumlee earlier this month but retain some expiring contracts that could be dealt ahead of the deadline. General manager Rich Cho, Bobby Marks of The Vertical explains, has made four trade deadline deals since his first year with the squad back in 2011.